Monday, January 29, 2018

Sunday Review: Photographer fingers and artist's aprons

Puerto Escondido Sunset
It has happened before, but it’s always a surprise.

This morning I woke up feeling like I was in a new world, as if something had shifted during the long night’s sleep. This time, it relates to my confidence in my life as an artist. It took many years, but I’ve grown comfortable introducing myself as a digital artist. I’m not sure how a night’s sleep changed things, but this morning I feel the need to drop the “digital” and merely state that I am an artist.

I am an artist working primarily in a digital medium, living an artist’s life, and being so very grateful to be doing so. Period. No apologies, no caveats, just acceptance that this is the path I’ve chosen. In my 72 years, I’ve experienced a wide range of art. Some took my breath away, some made me shake my head, and some made no impression whatsoever.

I want to make an impression, pull images out of my interaction with the world and give them life. I’m grateful that I’m not constrained by the world of art galleries, critics, judged art shows, or the opinions of friends and strangers. The Universe has been generous in granting me a life free of financial need for sales. I get to make art and let it flow freely into the world as part of my own exploration process.

What is art?

We noodle and quibble about the definition of art. For me though, it seems suddenly clear. Being an artist is not about fame, fortune or even identity. It’s a path of observing and interacting with the world, finding ways to synthesize the truths which emerge from that interaction, whether it be through image, word, sound, dance, story, supporting the growth of children, nurturing plants and animals, or feeding our bodies, minds and spirits. There are a thousand variations of artists' paths.

Regardless of the medium, an artist’s path is a quest for truth and the expression of it. Saying I am an artist is more of a statement about my commitment to the future than my accomplishments of the past.

So, how does this apply to photographer fingers and artist’s aprons?

This whole line of thinking was stimulated by the picture I took of a young woman taking a picture of a sunset with her camera phone. I’ll never see her face or the picture she took. I have no idea of what her intent was in taking that photo or the quality of that photo. Is she an artist? Perhaps she is, or maybe she was just taking a picture to put on Facebook. However, in that moment of observing a beautiful sunset and capturing it in pixels, she was making an artistic action. It will be her choice as to whether or not she continues on the artist’s path.

MY artist apron
And, the apron? One of the things I wanted when I came down here was one of the wonderful, embroidered aprons I’ve seen … not to cook in, of course! I wanted one as an artist’s apron. Once I bought it though, I thought, “This is ridiculous … it’s not like I’m painting and need to wear an apron.” 

That line of self-talk was very close to … I’m not a real artist, one who can draw and use paint brushes.

This morning’s eureka moment washed away that self-talk and said: wear the apron, claim your life as an artist.
And, so I do! 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Zica Sketches: when plans change

Zicatela Point
I had a specific agenda and intention when I booked my trip to Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast of the state of Oaxaca. An entre- preneurial worm had crawled into my brain, spewing a flood of possibility bubbles, all bright and shiny. 

By the time my friend Bette Brazel and I arrived, reality had popped the bigger bubbles, but there was still a fizz of “what ifs” ebbing and flowing like the tide. The first morning, we woke in our off-kilter airbnb with plans to follow, taxis to call, places to go: breakfast followed by the Dreamweavers weaving expo which was the prime reason for coming to this rather hard-to-get-to piece of beach, and a major factor in my entrepreneurial scheme.

Gazing from our top-of-the-hill balcony at the long Pacific view, I began to strap on my serious, follow-the-plan regalia. Perhaps, if I had turned my head just a little, I might have heard the soft sound of chuckling drifting up the canyon. However, I wasn’t listening, so I didn’t even hear the barked guffaw nor the sound of a thousand plan-dominos collapsing. 

Bette getting the boot
What I did hear was a sharp cry. Bette tripped and didn’t get up. Obviously, injured and in pain, our airbnb host whisked us to a local clinic where Dr. Emma marshaled the local forces of healing. A few hours later, (and amazingly few pesos) Bette hobbled out and we proceeded to the Santa Fe Hotel on Zicatela Beach, the location of the weaving expo, now approaching its closing time.

Having missed breakfast and lunch, however, food came first. Eating on the hotel's ocean front balcony, watching the waves coming and going from the blue Pacific, contemplating the machinations of the Universe, suddenly the definition of perfection flipped like a light switch and the entrepreneurial fizz flat-lined. I forced myself to make an appearance at the weaving conference, but in spite of all the incredible work and glorious color, nothing called to me.

Well, actually, something was calling to me … the beach and the
View from Santa Fe Hotel restaurant
lovely hotel we were in, which, in addition to all its charm and proximity to the beach and walking, offered a minimum of stairs, something Bette needed for the next several days. The airbnb we had rented was a hodgepodge of stairs and was way too far away from everything for us to be comfortable. What we needed was a ground floor room with two beds, close to the pool. I asked and the answer was “yes.” Within a couple of hours we were moved into the little bit of paradise that cuddled us like footy-pajamas for the next several days.

Me and my shadow, contemplating life.
Now we’re on our last day here; Bette’s healing rapidly, and the entrepreneurial whirring of my brain has been replaced by a slow-molasses quiet and a lot of art. The Universe always seems to get these things right. 
In our forced inactivity, Bette has discovered Shonda Rimes's A Year of Saying Yes, and I have taken to spending long periods of time in one of the few early morning coffee shops in Mexico, which happens to be just down the beach walk from our hotel.
El Cafecito is one of those boundary places, where locals, tourists, expats, anyone called by early morning, and a need for caffeine, comes to get their fix. This is the first of a series of "Zica sketches" born in those early mornings.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Sunday Review: Waking Microdreams?

A waking microdream?
Week 3, 2018 - A glorious week in Oaxaca, savoring the city and renewing friendships at Art House Oaxaca. (Much more about the experiences of Oaxaca at Mexican Art Villages).

After finishing a week in this magical colonial city filled with arts and crafts, and in keeping with my intention to Slow Down: simplify, savor and synthesize, it is time to contemplate what I learned.

Out of the more than 500 photos from this week, I chose one as my point of departure. Not an easy task as it was not the most beautiful, nor the most iconic, nor even the best. It was simply one that speaks to me, and asks the question … what is truth and what is shadow? Is shadow real? Does it hold a power of its own? This hotel marker is a strong graphic, however, the afternoon sun turned it into a more dramatic tale.

Emily Dickinson, once said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” The shadow in this picture is truth told slant. So, what does that mean?

In browsing Google for other thoughts, I came across Camile T. Dungy’s story about a writing class where, after reading the Dickinson poem, a student showed her a new tattoo that read: “The truth must dazzle gradually.” When we see the “H,” it is truth told straight, head on. We know there’s a hotel here. But, if there is something to be revealed by the shadow H, it has to gradually reveal itself. Perhaps, it’s really nothing but a play of light … or is it something more? ... a unique view? ... an unguessed connection?

We can walk past the image, labeling it a shadow, dismissing it as a mere creation of the angle of light, or we can wonder at the fleeting perception, explore the connection to some meaning or riddle of the Universe that flashed this momentary signal into our consciousness. 

Oaxaca Bubble
Maybe these perceptions are as insubstantial as soap bubbles in the sun. However, what if they’re like a microdream that deserves to be listened to, understood. valued? The idea of microdreams sends me off to Google and, of course, there’s recent research on microdreams cited in an article from Psychology Today.

The article contends that dreams are constructions of memories, past and present. Capturing microdreams of one-second or less that occur as you are falling asleep, narrows the range of memory sources and simplifies the process of understanding the dream snippet.

But, what if our perceptions are dream cousins? When we open our eyes, a million images flood into our brain. Somehow, our attention picks and chooses what gets through the filter … we notice the car coming toward us but not the lawn of dandelions, the color of palm fronds against a blue sky but not the missing branch of the seventh frond up.

While walking down the colonial streets of central Oaxaca, I was struck by the image of the H and its shadow. With all the other perceptions flooding my brain, why did I choose to take a picture of that image? Is it a waking dream snippet that instantly connected to some memory source?

The name I grew up with but haven’t used for almost fifty years was Harris. Is this a picture of my life … the original path and the actual journey, still recognizable but obviously different? Who can truly say, but I plan to spend more time with those images that I don't know why I took them.
This would be my favorite photo of the week.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Doing what I thought I'd do at 20 ... or had no idea I'd do at all.

Oaxaca blossoms in many ways.
My life is a surprise in so many ways.

At 20, I thought I’d be a world traveler. I had already been accepted into the Peace Corps for Afghanistan. Adventure awaited ... until my own cold feet and a guy with warm hands changed the trajectory of my life.

However, on this blue-sky morning that turns all your cells into cheer leaders, I’m walking through a remarkable, old city with thick-stone-walled churches, wide walking streets, and art, old and new, everywhere. Sophisticated tourists mingle with village vendors in their colorful, traditional clothing. Coffee shops open slowly around 8:30 and chocolate shops and pastries are everywhere.

Lisa Sonora and I
Every morning, craft vendors recreate their tiendas to display their wares. They don’t just go to work, they live their work, and carry it with them for another day of sales in the shadow of the cathedral. I walk the streets, once again giving thanks for having a relatively easy and safe life. And, for living long enough to enjoy so much of the world’s feast.

I love creative signs.
I’m staying at Art House Oaxaca, owned by Lisa Sonora, a friend from the US and one of my creative muses. Her extremely well-located art retreat center has five private studios and a well-stocked-with-art-supplies outdoor studio. Yesterday as I was on my way back to Art House from wandering the city, I stopped in five art galleries within blocks of “home.” I love being able to see local contemporary art as well as all the traditional folk art in the shops and streets. I was so inspired, the evening was spent on a new art piece (see my new blog Mexican Art Villages.)

All of this abundance makes me wrap gratitude around myself as if it were the finest, hand-woven rebozo. Yes, it took me fifty years to get here … but I’m here. I’m healthy, energetic, financially sound and delighted to be exploring the world. The young girl who grew up in a small, southeastern Kansas town never, ever imagined the life that has, step-by-step, brought me here.

Sometimes, remembering that time so long ago when I had no way of imagining what lay before me, I wonder if I’m still as unaware of the future as I was then. Two years ago I thought I was living in my forever place. A year ago, I was just starting to think of Mexico as a part-time experience. Today, I’m living in Ajijic on the beautiful Lake Chapala and spending three weeks exploring Oaxaca, the city and the state.

Where will I be next year? Who knows? I might not even be earth-bound this time next year, but I do know that on this particular day, sitting in a small café in the amazing city of Oaxaca, I am happy, grateful and delighted to be alive.

PS ... to keep up with my travels, please see my blog: Mexico Stories.